Bombay HC Denies Bail to Hany Babu in Elgar Parishad Case, Upholds Trial Court Verdict

The National Investigation Agency has accused Babu of being a "co-conspirator" in propagating Maoist activities and ideology on the instructions of leaders of the banned CPI (Maoist).

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New Delhi: The Bombay high court on Monday, September 19, rejected the bail plea filed by Delhi University’s associate professor Hany Babu, who is an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case.

A division bench of Justices N. M. Jamdar and N.R. Borkar upheld the earlier ruling of a special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court, which had denied him bail. The high court on Monday dismissed his appeal against the NIA order after it had concluded hearing the matter on August 29 and reserved its verdict for later.

The NIA, which is conducting a probe into the case, has accused Babu of being a “co-conspirator” in propagating Maoist activities and ideology on the instructions of leaders of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) [CPI (M)] organisation.

According to Indian Express, the special court had ruled that there was prima facie evidence to suggest that Babu was “actively involved” in the activities of the outlawed organisation.

He was arrested in July 2020 in the case and was booked under charges including criminal conspiracy and under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [UAPA]. He is currently lodged at the Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai.

The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at the Elgar Parishad conclave, held in Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which police claimed triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon Bhima war memorial located on the city’s outskirts.

One person was killed and several others were injured in the violence.

The case, in which over a dozen activists and academicians had been named accused, was initially probed by the Pune Police and later taken over by the NIA.

Hany Babu approached the high court in June this year, challenging the order of the special NIA court that had rejected his bail plea. In his plea moved before the high court, he had said the special court had “erred” in holding that there existed prima facie incriminating material against him.

In his petition, filed through advocates Yug Chaudhary and Payoshi Roy, Babu said while the NIA had cited a letter speaking of a conspiracy to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi as evidence in the case, the alleged letter did not incriminate him.

“There existed no evidence to even suggest that he intended to or supported activities to cause disaffection against India,” the plea said.

The NIA had opposed the bail plea, arguing that Babu actively participated in activities to promote Naxalism and wanted to overthrow the government.

Additional solicitor general (ASG) Anil Singh, appearing for the NIA, had claimed Babu was a member of the banned outfit CPI (Maoist) and the prosecution had seized material from his laptop to show he was in constant contact with other accused in the case.

“Hany Babu wanted to promote and expand Naxalism and was part of the conspiracy to wage a war against India by overthrowing the elected government,” Singh said.

He had also told the court that Babu had not only been involved in sourcing information on making explosives but had also indulged in garnering support from foreign countries for the banned organisation to carry out “anti-national activities”.

Given that Babu’s activities amounted to “terrorist acts”, Singh had said there was no question of bail to someone charged with such a “serious offence” and the plea should be dismissed, according to the Indian Express report.

He along with others wanted to set up “Janata Sarkar”, which is a people’s government by arms struggle, Singh had told the court. The ASG had also argued that Babu used to train other members of the outfit on how to avoid phone tapping.

In a rejoinder filed before the high court, Babu’s counsel said that his client cannot be prosecuted since “no terrorist act is committed by him or alleged against him and he cannot be tried under the UAPA”. It also pointed out that since the trial in the case will take a long time, the applicant had been in jail for over two years, and since there was no threat of him absconding or tampering with the evidence, denial of bail would be “cruel” and “perverse”.

A detailed copy of the judgment is yet to be made available.

(With PTI inputs)